Presidential Election 2022: Xavier Bertrand and Emmanuel Macron at odds over Ascoval case

Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France Region and Emmanuel Macron, during the visit of the Godin de Guise Familistère, on November 19, 2021. JEAN-CLA

Presidential Election 2022: Xavier Bertrand and Emmanuel Macron at odds over Ascoval case

Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France Region and Emmanuel Macron, during the visit of the Godin de Guise Familistère, on November 19, 2021. JEAN-CLA

TheEditor
TheEditor
23 November 2021 Tuesday 00:00
77 Reads
Presidential Election 2022: Xavier Bertrand and Emmanuel Macron at odds over Ascoval case
Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France Region and Emmanuel Macron, during the visit of the Godin de Guise Familistère, on November 19, 2021. JEAN-CLAUDE COUTAUSSE FOR "LE MONDE"

"I want to save this factory. You too? "Taking advantage of a visit by Emmanuel Macron to the familistère de Guise (Aisne), on Friday, November 19, Xavier Bertrand directly questioned the President of the Republic on the situation of the Ascoval steelworks. The future of the plant located in Saint-Seaulve (North), which employs 270 employees and produces steel bars for the manufacture of rails, remains unclear. The German group Saarstahl, which owns it, was considering relocating part of its production to Germany, where blast furnaces run on coal, which is much cheaper than electricity, whose prices are soaring.

After a meeting in Bercy on Thursday evening, Saarstahl, who has owned the steel mill since June 2021, finally gave up on his project. But the government did not specify the guarantees granted, prompting concern from Mr Bertrand. "The solution chosen is not satisfactory," said the president of the Hauts-de-France region and candidate for the nomination of the Republicans party (LR) to the Head of State. It's the electricity tariff the problem. As long as we have competition from the Germans with coal, they [Ascoval] will not be competitive. We must give them the preferential rate, this is the only way to get them out of business sustainably. "

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers For steel mills, the electricity bill is soaring

"As you know, dear president of the regional council, the minister [in charge of industry] spent her day and night there," Macron retorted, inviting him to "talk about it" to Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who announced that the contract linking Ascoval to EDF would change on January 1 to "stabilize" the cost of electricity. "I want to save this factory. You too? ", Mr. Bertrand insisted at the time. "They summoned the company at my request as early as yesterday," Mr Macron replied. "I'm telling you that's not the solution," the regional president interrupted him, demanding "guarantees" on the electricity tariff granted to the plant that employs 270 employees.

"You may know better than all the others," said Mr Macron. "The problem is not who is right about the two of us, take into account the point of view of which I am the spokesman, " retorted his interlocutor. The Head of State then cut short by concluding: "Thank you for being with the other elected officials who work for the territory. With me you have a President of the Republic who is fighting for the industry on the ground. "

"We are relieved"

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Saarstahl confirmed that "thoughts regarding a possible limited and temporary transfer of volumes are no longer being pursued ". The steel group stressed the "success" of "numerous talks" with "customers, suppliers, staff members", which took place in "collaboration with the French authorities", but without giving more details on the counterparties or assurances obtained to abandon its project.

Read also Article reserved for our Ascoval subscribers, in Saint-Saulve: "Do you hear the noise? It's going on in the factory"

"We're not going to be able to go into the details of conversations between a customer and his supplier, but what was at the heart of the solution was the renegotiation of the contractual conditions regarding the rails, with all the customers, who are in particular French and Belgian. I think that Hayange's first client is well known," said the office of the Minister delegate for industry, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, referring to the SNCF.

Three lines of work had been put on the table during the various working meetings between the German steelmaker and government representatives, one of which was to index the contract binding Saarstahl with the SNCF on the world iron prices that are soaring. Another option was to adapt Ascoval's electricity supply contract with EDF. On a trip to the Isère region on Friday, Ms Pannier-Runacher hailed a "collectively reached" decision.

"What was at stake was an electric steel production, that is to say 90% decarbonized in France, compared to coal production. We could clearly see the collective absurdity of a decision of this nature," the Minister stressed. On the union side, "we are relieved, it was nonsense for us," especially "because it is public money that saved us," Cyril Morelle, a CGT elected official, told Agence France-Presse.

Le Monde avec AFP

The contribution space is reserved for subscribers. Subscribe to access this space and contribute to the discussion. Subscribe Already subscribed? Log in

Contribute

Share Share disabled Share disabled share Disabled Send by e-mail Share disabled share disabled share Disabled share Disabled
Updated: 23.11.2021 00:00
Comments

Warning!

You have to login for comment. If you are not a member? Register now.

Login Sign Up